Most small businesses have been adversely impacted by the COVID19 pandemic, and those that are still in operation are now beginning to reopen to what is being termed the “new normal”. Many small businesses have managed to stay afloat, in part due to benefits they have received under the CARES Act. There is a desire to re-open, but the reality is that we are a long way from “normal” and no one really knows what the “new normal” will look like.
Industries that have been significantly impacted in Pennsylvania include restaurants & bars, tourism, retail, real estate, legal services, beauty salons, and medical services. Some have been forced to close for weeks, while others were able to operate virtually from lockdown, offering online services and sales to recoup lost face-to-face revenue.
As counties throughout Pennsylvania prepare for either a “Yellow” or “Green” phase, many business owners have concerns on how to reopen safely, while still operating at a profit.
HERE ARE FIVE THINGS TO CONSIDER:
- Increased Operating Costs
It is certain that the new normal will include an increase in operating costs. Products, additional labor, protective equipment for staff and customers, and increased advertising are just a few of the costs likely to be involved.
- Making It Clear Your Business is SAFE
Both customers and employees will have concerns in relation to safety, although most have a strong desire to return to an air of normalcy. The first step is to conduct a full safety assessment. All operations need to be carried out with the aim of ensuring safety and these measures should be clearly conveyed to all employees and customers. It is your job to restore faith in your business, to attract customers and recall employees back to work!
Consider what operational changes you take to address safety concerns.
Some changes to consider may include:
- This may include adjusting hours and services to allow for frequent sanitation throughout and at the end of the business day.
- Consider extending work from home measures to avoid unnecessary social contact and aid employees who may value this flexibility due to childcare restraints. Shifts and schedules may need to be adjusted to accommodate employees and to support new procedures.
- Salons might open with limitations on the number of customers they can accommodate at one time, which may mean opening earlier and closing later.
- It may be necessary to give employees additional duties and responsibilities, such as giving an employee a set of keys to open earlier.
NOTE: Some of these changes may require updating employee handbooks and in cases in which duties have changed significantly, salary reviews might be appropriate.
- Communicating Your Message
What is your message in the new normal?
- Are you Open for Business?
- Are you accepting orders online?
- Are you encouraging pick-ups at curbside?
- Are you Open for Business and are wearing masks and expecting customers to wear masks?
How has the services you offer had to change to meet the challenges posed by COVID19?
**It is necessary for your customers to understand the extent of the safety measures you are taking to protect them and to educate your customers on your operational changes so that they have an understanding as to what changes THEY may need to make to continue to obtain products and services from your organization!**
- Playing “Catch up!”
There is bound to be increased competition within almost every industry, with many business owners looking to get back to work and play “catch up” for lost sales. It may be prudent to increase advertising budgets to capture more opportunity to add revenue to your business. Many businesses will be looking to increase their digital advertising budget to reach their audience. Some businesses have utilized their downtime during COVID19 to improve their websites and freshen up their content. This may be a good time to shop your competition and see what you may learn from them and implement a strong marketing campaign.
Brick and mortars may want to evaluate their signage needs prior to reopening to increase their exposure to physical traffic communicating plans to reopening and also add “Social Distancing” signs to high-traffic areas within their shop.
History tends to repeat itself, and we know that when society goes through a significant shift, some changes remain for quite some time. The changes that we have experienced that were temporary in response to a global pandemic will likely remain for some time to come.
Large organizations like Twitter and Facebook have learned that working from home has led to higher production and has made announcements to continue indefinitely. We may very well see a surge in abandoned offices affecting the commercial real estate landscape if others follow this trend. Co-sharing office space will likely continue to increase to cut operational costs and provide a better culture for smaller companies.
Brick and mortar stores that were already pressed to be creative to keep up with the e-commerce stores and will at least need to offer an option for online ordering and an increased digital footprint. Now more than ever will the customer experience be a driver in attracting new foot traffic.
Those that have recently needed medical attention, may have experienced a Telehealth visit. This may also be an arrangement that remains as an option for patients having minor symptoms, post pandemic. For those with a busy lifestyle, utilizing a Telehealth option may lead to increased wellness visits contributing to a healthier society.
Applications like Zoom have shown that many events and meetings can be conducted virtually. There will still be a desire to have face-to-face contact with friends, family, and colleagues but applications such as Zoom are expected to remain popular.
There has been a rally of support from communities in Central PA encouraging increased support of the small business owner and it is rather inspiring! We can only work together to encourage one another to get back to a sense of normalcy in what has been a time of great uncertainty while remaining safe!
The COVID19 pandemic has been an incredibly challenging time for the small business owner. It has impacted everyone differently and as we move toward this “new normal” we certainly learn from this experience, embrace one another, and grow as we move forward!